Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - South Africa star in saga of seam and swing. Kagiso Rabada rediscovered form in South Africa's most emphatic showing in the tournament
Kagiso Rabada rediscovered form in South Africa's most emphatic showing in the tournament
First Kagiso Rabada took centre stage in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. Then Anrich Nortje grabbed top billing. Then Taskin Ahmed polished his star. And all the while Mustafizur Rahman could only sit and watch, wondering what might have been.
It isn't often that a pitch in a T20I anywhere favours fast bowlers, even less so in the UAE, and still less on a platform as grand as a World Cup. So Tuesday's surface at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium was an exception. It was grassy, quick, offered bounce and seam, and the extra humidity that hung in the air made the ball swing.
Given those conditions, the history between these teams in the format, and the fact that Bangladesh had one-and-a-half feet on the plane after losing all of their first three games, victory for South Africa was always likely.
But for the Bangladeshis to be bundled out for 84 was a shock. It was the eighth time they have been dismissed in double figures in their 119 T20Is, but the first time by South Africa – who won by six wickets with 6.3 overs remaining to retain their unbeaten record in seven T20Is against Bangladesh.
Mission accomplished, as Rabada told a press conference: “There was a clear instruction that we should try finish the game before 15 [overs].” The South Africans knocked off the target smartly enough to boost their net run rate to +0.79. That puts them in second place in Group 1 with Australia third on -0.63. South Africa's next and last engagement in the group stage is a mega match against leaders England in Sharjah on Saturday. By then, Australia will have completed their programme against Bangladesh and West Indies. So Temba Bavuma's team will know exactly what they need to do to reach the semifinals – either beat England or make sure they finish with a better run rate than the Aussies.
This was easily South Africa's most emphatic showing. It followed a narrow loss to Australia and close wins over West Indies and Sri Lanka. Was this evidence of a team hitting its straps ahead of their biggest challenge, or would it have been better to prepare for England with another nail-biter?
“No, I don't prefer a tight game at all,” Rabada said. “It's too much stress. We're glad that we won convincingly today. We knew every game was going to be tough and would require so much intensity. It's hard work, the amount of focus that you have to show; resilience, thinking on the spot. It takes a lot out of you. We can take confidence out of our performance as a collective heading into the England game. We know it's going to be tough.”
Bangladesh don't have such complexities to consider. Their race was pretty much run before Tuesday's match. All that's left for them to do now is try and stave of a World Cup whitewash against Australia, then go home and hope their public will show understanding for their poor showing. “Against that type of batting line-up 84 is never good enough,” Taskin told a press conference. “We are trying our best. So hopefully, insha-allah, in future we'll overcome.”
Rabada offered advice on how to deal with the fans: “You'll always have critics, and that's something that we have made peace with. You can't take the good without the bad.”
Besides, the most virulent critics were in the dressing room: “We put ourselves under more pressure than the public, because we're the cricketers. We want to do well for ourselves more than anyone else wants us to do well. So we put more pressure on ourselves. Whatever people have to say outside of the game, it's OK. We can't control that. Everyone's entitled to their opinion. In saying that, we see a lot of value in people who genuinely support us.”
It's cold comfort, but Bangladesh will have earned Rabada's gratitude. He went into the match with his team's worst bowling average and economy rate and only two wickets. That started changing in the fourth over on Tuesday, Rabada's second, when Mohammad Naim smashed a low catch to midwicket. Rabada bent his next delivery through the air and onto the boot of Soumya Sarkar, whose bat descended too late to spare him from being trapped in front. The hattrick ball took the shoulder of Mushfiqur Rahim's bat and flew past gully – yes, gully! In a T20I match! – and bounced before reaching point. Two deliveries later, Mushfiqur fended to gully, where Reeza Hendricks held a sharp, high catch.
Rabada bowled with verve and violence to claim 3/10 in the space of his first 15 balls, taking those wickets across five of his deliveries. He finished with 3/20 – his best figures in his 39 T20Is and his second-best economy rate, and the fourth time that he has struck as many as three times.
Before Tuesday, Rabada had gone through his gears only to not reach peak performance. This time, he did that and more. It wasn't that he had bowled badly previously. But he wasn't as good as he would have known he could have been. On Tuesday, he was.
Nortje has been at or near his rapid, relentless best from the moment he marked out a run-up at this World Cup. But he found an extra touch of something special on Tuesday, allowing just five scoring shots from the 20 balls he bowled and taking 3/8 – his best figures in his 15 T20Is, the first time he has claimed three wickets, and his best economy rate; 2.40 bettering the 3.50 he conceded against the Windies.
Nortje ended the innings with consecutive deliveries by rushing Mahedi Hasan into a pull that blooped back to the bowler, and forcing Nasum Ahmed to retreat so far backward from the crease that his downswing smashed his stumps. Rather than wanting to criticise Nasum, you felt sorry for him.
Over to you, Bangladeshi quicks. Taskin answered the challenge by nailing Reeza Hendricks' pad with an inswinger bang in front of the stumps to end the first over. In his third he had Aiden Markram snapped up at slip, where Naim dived and hung on. Temba Bavuma walked out to see a second slip step up, and was immediately cut in half by an inswinger that snuck over the stumps. Taskin's 2/18 marked the third time in 29 T20Is that he had taken two wickets, and he did so at his fifth-lowest economy rate.
With Shakib Al Hasan, Bangladesh's top wicket-taker and key allrounder, out of the tournament with a hamstring injury, you might have thought their second-most successful bowler would have been guaranteed a place in Tuesday's XI. Instead Mustafizur was rested. There he sat, baleful in his bib, watching others of his ilk revel in conditions he won't have seen often. Or will again.
It's unlikely a fast bowler even of Mustafizur's quality would have been able to help Bangladesh defend 84, but it would have been good to see him strutt his stuff in this saga of seam and swing. Sadly, so it goes.